The Fred Robinson Bridge over the Missouri River is approximately 70 miles south of Malta on Highway 191. Looking from the bridge you are viewing much of the same scenery that Lewis and Clark viewed when passing through this area. On May 23, 1805, the Corps of Discovery camped about seven miles downstream from this spot. While their journals are vague on this, they viewed from the hills above the campsite the Little Rocky Mountains about 25 miles to the northwest. They camped the next day about 2 miles upstream from the bridge.
While most of northeastern Montana witnessed the “Old West,” this area experienced the “Wild West.” Outlaws, vigilantes, sprawling ranches, frontier towns, gold mines, trappers, cowboys, and steamboats were all a part of this colorful era.
From the bridge, you can start exploring the backroads of the C.M. Russell Wildlife Refuge. James Kipp Park is near the bridge and has camping facilities. Head up the hill to the south to the Slippery Ann Wildlife Station and refuge office. The name Slippery Ann is a corrupted spelling of the fur trader, Cyprian Mat. In the late 1880s, he was the proprietor of a trading post just south of the Little Rockies.
An excellent 20-mile long self-guided tour starts here. The duty personnel here can give you a map and information about the tour. This tour will take you near Lewis and Clark’s May 22, 1805, campsite as well as two frontier towns—Rocky Point and Carroll. Make sure you carry plenty of water with you on the refuge. There is very little, if any, drinking water available on the refuge.
When you’re finished at the refuge go back to Highway 191 and head north. You will rise out of the Missouri Breaks and soon catch a view of the Little Rocky Mountains, arguably one of the most colorful and storied mountain ranges in the west. When you reach the Highway 66 junction, take a left and go a short distance to the old mining town of Landusky.
The town was named for Pike Landusky, a brutish character who roamed the territory in search of gold in the late 1800s (see article).
When you’re finished in Landusky, backtrack to Highway 191 and continue north about 20 miles to the turnoff to Zortman. If you’re in the mood, there are backroads and trails from here that will take you high into the hills where you can get some great views of the surrounding prairies.
Leaving Zortman and heading north on 191 you will cross the trail of the legendary “Long Drives” of Longhorn cattle that Texans drove 1,800 miles to winter in Montana. You’ll soon enter the Milk River Valley and reach the ranching town of Malta.
Milepost 88, US 191, 51 miles (82 km) north of Lewistown, Montana